Monday, February 26, 2018

"I pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the armed guards outside my school. One nation, under fire, with liberty and justice not so much."

The Oath Keepers, whether you want them or not, say they're going to place armed guards outside U.S. schools. Great country you got there, America.

The Oath Keepers. Which oath, dudes?

Oh boy.
Imagine if every school campus in the United States had its own volunteer security officer: a former police officer or military veteran equipped with an assault rifle.
That’s the dream of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.
In the wake of the February 14 massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school, Rhodes is calling on members of his far-right anti-government militia group to serve as unpaid and unaccountable armed school guards — whether teachers and students like the idea or not.
One Indiana Oath Keeper has already deployed to a local school, even though the school district says there’s no need for him to be there.
Just go home.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump's Solution: Arm Teachers

In an interesting side note, Trump then denied in tweets that he ever said "arm teachers" before clarifying that he said "only arm highly trained former military teachers/coaches." Thanks for the, uh, clarification?

Here is Trump offering his solution: Arm teachers so they can blast away
when a shooter comes in. Can you visualize how that would work?

This morning The Hill offered a number of what I can only describe as bizarre articles. Here's Trump saying he never said "arm teachers."
President Trump in a series of tweets early Thursday denied that he suggested giving teachers guns, saying he would consider giving trained teachers concealed weapons.
Trump said he suggested at a White House meeting giving concealed guns to "teachers with military of special training experience," adding that a gun free school is a "magnet for bad people."
"I never said 'give teachers guns' like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving 'concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience - only the best," Trump tweeted.
"20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to...immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A 'gun free' school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!"
Thanks for the leadership, Trump. I bet the NRA hates your idea of more guns solving the gun problem. You just earned another $30 million contribution!

Another article in The Hill, this one by former ambassador to Cambodia and the Philippines, Kenneth Quinn, suggested building walls around schools, as they had to do around embassies, would be a necessary deterrent to gun attacks. 
It pains me to say so, but it will likely take walls, ballistic doors and access control points to keep the more than 100,000 elementary and secondary schools in America safe. It will be very expensive, and it will take years to accomplish, but it will work. It is the one thing we could do right away that will start to make our school children safer.
Congress could appropriate funds as block grants to those states that choose to participate. Local school boards could decide if they need a wall. President Trump is an accomplished builder with hotels around the world and construction projects across America. It would be a lasting tribute to his leadership and an incomparable legacy of his presidency if he would embrace this national construction program to keep our school children safe. It might just bring our political parties closer together, and like all infrastructure projects, it will create jobs.
Great! Our schools and our kids getting shot up is an opportunity for jobs, jobs, jobs! Just in case you were wondering, this is a major Washington paper, not The Onion.

This is the country we currently live in.


Monday, February 19, 2018

From Ronald Reagan to Rand Paul: Americanism's Great Failed Notion May Be "Personal Responsibility"

When Reagan intoned that government was the problem, not the solution, he set in motion the modern concept of governance -- less is more. What was truly needed was "personal responsibility." How very American and how, quite likely, dead wrong.

Ronald Reagan, performance artist and inventor of homeless people.

The presidency of Ronald Reagan did mark a change away from government solutions to societal problems and toward individual solutions to societal problems (hope you catch how oxymoronic that is). And the snark in the caption to the above photo is not snark at all. Even during his time as California governor he worked to get the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the streets where, in his view, they belonged.

When you multiply Ronald Reagan's anti-government-as-solution stance by Rand Paul's government-can't-regulate-me dictum you'll likely get a society that doesn't know what the fuck it's doing or is supposed to be doing. And that's the world I see shaping up in American life today, though its roots are back in the Reagan years.

Conservatives might say it represents a victory for their ideology, while liberals will point out you get what you pay -- or don't pay -- for.

If you like what we've got here in America, then maybe the conservatives have a point. But I offer this in rebuttal. (First I want to stipulate that what FDR and LBJ accomplished with their agendas are not all that different from what Eisenhower did or Truman and Nixon would have done for social services and environmental protections. After all, Nixon gave us the E.P.A. and expanded Medicare, and Truman did try to introduce a national healthcare system.)
  • Should we be happy with a healthcare system ranked 37th in the world for quality and close to highest in the world for cost?
  • Should we be happy having far and away the most murderous society in the developed world and yet the highest incarceration rate?
  • Should we be happy getting a D+ grade from the American Society of Engineers for the state of our infrastructure?
  • Should we be happy with a Congress who just massively lowered taxes on the wealthy and corporate interests at a time when income inequality is hitting nosebleed levels?
  • Should we be happy that Congress is making noises that due to our huge deficit -- exacerbated by the recent tax cuts -- we have to make major reductions to our Medicare, Medicaid, and social-safety-net spending?
  • Should we be happy having spent over $4 trillion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan only to secure Iranian hegemony in Iraq and Taliban ascendance in Afghanistan?
If you're not happy, you're like me. What's more, there are few reasons why we should be in such predicaments.
  • The cry "we must take responsibility for our own success in life!" is remarkable in the face of near historic levels of employment. Where are the freaking goldbrickers?
  • Corporations are at near-record highs for the amount of uninvested capital they're sitting on, and yet they need a massive tax cut that they can't invest or use to drive up already peaked demand?
  • With the aforementioned low unemployment, the federal government in its wisdom is encouraging states to demand a work requirement from its citizens in need of Medicaid at a time when most of those who qualify are already working, are pregnant, elderly, or disabled?
  • After decades of wage stagnation a modest increase in reported wages (2.9% year-on-year) causes the Fed to raise interest rates in part to drive down wage pressures?
  • At a time when we need to encourage immigration to expand our economy and reinvigorate our workforce (make it younger) in order to underpin Social Security and Medicare, we as a country are trying to cut legal immigration in half?
  • Is it wise to round up undocumented workers by the millions and deport them, leaving major farming and food-production industries with unfillable holes in their workforces?
The spirit that drives these well-documented aspects of our current situation, and the likely outcome of new policy prescriptions, is rooted in nationalism, white supremacy, and fear of the deterioration of the Ozzie-and-Harriet world that disappeared something like a half a century ago.

It's also hilariously ironic that everything that we've done to deregulate our country and promote personal responsibility has been done by or is encouraged by laws and regulations.

Somehow I think government-as-the-problem, deregulation-as-the-solution, and the promulgation of personal-responsibility-as-salvation might have driven our country -- literally -- off the rails. We might want to rethink how important individualism is to a functioning democracy and begin to reshape our country as one that is not afraid to work synergistically for the common good.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Understand Propaganda, and You Understand Fox News (and Russian Bots)

Laying the groundwork for effective propaganda, first one needs to soften the field: create failed epistemologies and muddled thinking. Wreak as much havoc as you can on critical thinking. Undermine established information sources. Then, let the games begin.

A snapshot in time on the road to the apocalypse?
Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Lee Atwater in 1985.

The best way I can put it -- preparing the landscape for a successful propaganda operation -- is to make your "truth" more palatable, believable, by first disturbing as much as possible what people believe to be true. Along the way, destroy public trust in heretofore reliable sources of information.

That, in a nutshell, is what has been going on since the Reagan Era and what has accelerated during the Trump Era. From Lee Atwater to Rush Limbaugh, from Glenn Beck to Sean Hannity, from Donald Trump to the Russian election meddling, the job wasn't so much to promulgate an ideology -- that, too -- but to muddy fucking everything up as much as possible.

Did you ever listen to Glenn Beck? Did you ever notice that he spent a good deal of time making absolutely no sense at all, often while using a blackboard in an ersatz professorial way, occasionally saying things like, "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is."

It was preposterous to say this about Barack Obama. Whatever anyone thought of Obama, the notion that he hated white people is beyond absurd. His mother was white, the grandparents that helped raise him in Hawaii (Hawaii!) were white. Absolutely absurd. But, when viewed in the context of a narrative that was meant to obscure Obama's (rather stellar) character, it makes total sense, in as much as it serves by making no sense at all.

And so: When you look at all the continual nonsense -- non-sense -- streaming over the years from Fox News, you find that there were a number of levels on which Fox's propaganda could work. First, a viewer could take it at face value (Obama's a racist! I knew it!), or wonder what the viewer is missing (I never liked the guy, maybe he is a racist...) or just be generally bollixed (Wait, that can't be right...). After hearing Beck's remarks, the narrative is hopelessly muddied. Then, let Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Geraldo Rivera run it through the meat grinder night after night, and who knows what to think, except Obama's a racist, Hillary's a criminal, and Trump "makes a lot of sense."

Fast-forward to today. Fox News is best viewed as a conspiracy-theory disinformation unit of the Republican Party, and Donald Trump is best understood as a Russian Twitter bot. Think of him that way, and he doesn't seem crazy. Evil, dissembling, narcissistic, unAmerican, lots of things, but not crazy. Instead, he seems in on the game. And that's frightening. We would be safer if he were a clown.

Note. Three must-read articles that stirred me to write this are from Anne Applebaum revealing that Russian bots are at work muddying the conversation on the Parkland shooting, a college study by Kate Starbird of the University of Washington about how disinformation networks operate, and an article on media literacy in the age of misinformation by noted Internet researcher Danah Boyd. Definitely read them.

Read more here:

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Afghanistan War Has Failed

I've been against American war efforts in the Middle East ever since the Persian Gulf War -- we got in, kicked Saddam out of Kuwait and got out, hard to criticize that -- except for the immediate move into Afghanistan after 9/11, which I assumed, wrongly, would be a police action to get Osam bin Laden.

There's no winning there, never was.

That one moment in time, when bin Laden was holed up in Tora Bora and George W. Bush lost interest and turned instead to Iraq, was the point where we should have gotten out.

Now, sixteen years later, it's too late. We're stuck and can't get out. Still, we should. There's nothing to win there.

For a glimpse at the futility, Google "afghanistan war failed." Something I found was a two-part set of essays detailing the pro and con sides of staying or going. Here's part one; here's part two.

A taste:
If the United States departs, then it must consider how to influence Afghanistan to blunt the most dangerous threats. One option is to emulate the Soviet Union after its departure by backing a client government with money and weapons to enable it to survive. Moscow backed the Najibullah regime which managed to hold on in Afghanistan for several years; The United States could mimic this tactic with anti-Taliban forces. The U.S. might further support these anti-Taliban groups with air power and a far smaller number of trainers and special operators, enabling the Afghan government to survive but hardly to advance. Such an inglorious withdrawal would suggest that the blood and treasure spent in Afghanistan were wasted, but that’s not a reason to stay on.
Remind anyone of Vietnam? A side note: Vietnam could recover because there were no longer competing interests after the U.S. pulled out. In Afghanistan, the old divisions and tribes would remain -- along with the potentially resurgent terrorist groups -- which is why we may never be able to leave.

We broke it, we own it.

Trump and the GOP Are in a DACA Corner

Mainstream media doesn't know how to correctly report this, but the Democrats kicked Trump's ass on DACA. He and the GOP got nothing. All that's left is Trump gets to deport Dreamers? Call that a victory? Daily Kos' Armando knows better. Click on the tweet to read the whole thread. 

Sorry, Trump, you don't get to decide, unless it's to deport Dreamers. Sad!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Vox Explains the Unexplainable (that the Trump Infrastructure Plan Isn't a Plan)

Build roads and bridges? Not on my watch!

If you build it, we won't pay for it.

Vox, is good at explaining it. That's good because it's what they do:
The really big question about Trump and infrastructure, ever since he won the election, is whether he actually wants to get something done on this or if it was just a campaign line. This proposal answers that question pretty definitively — by mashing up Trump’s vague rhetoric with his staff’s conventional hard-right politics, they’ve landed on a formula with no bipartisan appeal and no actual path forward.
Final word on Trump's plan? It isn't a thing, and nobody likes it.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Trump's Infrastructure Hoax Gives with One Hand and Takes with the Other

The words "cruel hoax" sound overly harsh, but they're not harsh enough to expose the flim-flam that is Donald Trump's phony infrastructure "plan."

You'd think that Donald Trump would be smart enough to release his infrastructure plan and the 2019 budget proposal that makes it an insane joke on different days, if only to make it slightly more likely that people who make a living analyzing these things might not notice the contemptible mendacity of the whole affair. But you'd be wrong because today he released them both.

This is at least Donald Trump's third Infrastructure Week, and it's different because he actually said something about infrastructure! And there's a plan! And it's so bad people are stopping in the streets and uttering a collective WTF?! OK, people are not stopping in the streets, but they are dodging potholes left and right.

Imagine the federal government solving the infrastructure problems by selling off federal infrastructure while offering to build or finance bloody nothing. Odd, but that's about what Trump's plan is. If you build it, we will come. Oh, and local governments, you pay for it. That will be easy now that the new tax cut law has capped state and local tax deductions on our federal taxes. It'll be so easy for states to raise taxes now!

Quick take: Trump reverses the usual "Feds pay 80% to 90%" on new infrastructure to "Feds pay 10 to 15%" and state and local governments, strapped as they are for cash, the rest! But don't worry, Trump says let the private sector take over! Soon we'll be paying road tolls just to go to Safeway.

It's bad enough that the plan calls for $200 billion in federal spending. But to make it insanely hoax-worthy, the 2019 budget Trump puts out calls for $178 billion in cuts to transportation spending.

That's not a plan, that's a practical joke.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

#MeToo Is Not a Debate Between Trump's #MeNeither Denialism and Hillary Clinton's Acquiesence.

Or at least I'd fucking hope so.

Dicks in their day, and different only by degree. Do they get
to arbitrate the moment? We should hope not.

I don't pretend to know or understand Donald Trump's sex life, as lurid and as grotesque as it's reputed. Bill Clinton's was over-evaluated and should be ancient history by now. The fact that it isn't is because conservatives can't let Hillary off the hook. She's been their go-to scandal for too long, whether she ever deserved to be a scandal at all.

So it's not surprising that Ross Douthat  goes there while trying to get his Catholic little fingers around the #MeToo movement:
Compared to those idealists, the people teaching “porn literacy” have accepted a sweeping pedagogical defeat. They take for granted that the most important sex education may take place on Pornhub, that the purpose of their work is essentially remedial, and that there is no escape from the world that porn has made.
Which at the moment there is not. But we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut.
This surrender was not inevitable. It was only a generation ago that the unlikely (or was it?) alliance of feminists and religious conservatives made the regulation of pornography a live political debate. But between the individualistic drift of society, the invention of the internet, and the failure of the Dworkin-Falwell alliance’s predictions that porn would lead to rising rates of rape, the anti-porn case was marginalized — with religious conservatism’s surrender to Donald Trump’s playboy candidacy a seeming coup de grace.
Except it doesn’t have to be. Trump’s grotesqueries have stirred up a feminist reaction that’s more moralistic and less gamely sex-positive than the Clinton-justifying variety, and there’s no necessary reason why its moralistic gaze can’t extend to our porn addiction. And indeed, I think the part of the #MeToo movement that’s interested in discussing sexual unhappiness and not just sexual harassment clearly wants to talk about pornography, even if it doesn’t quite realize that yet.
This bit of malarkey is in the middle of his "ban porn" article reflective of his Catholic canonistic obsessions (read moral backwardness). I'm not suggesting there isn't something degrading about the treatment of women in pornography or that the world may be better off without it or without our twelve-year-olds (or nine-year-olds?) getting their curious little eyes on it. But regardless of what Douthat might think, that horse is out of the barn and, First Amendment rights notwithstanding, banning it is somewhere between impossible and not-gonna-happen.

I'm just wondering two things: From whence cometh Douthat's measure of our "porn addiction," and why do Bill Clinton's ancient sexual peccadilloes -- and Hillary's humiliation -- have anything to do with Donald Trump's 2018 #MeNeither "he says he's innocent, lives are being ruined" focus that extends to only men. The women? They don't get included in Trump's equation.

That's the scandal, and no amount of sloughing it off on yesterday's news will make it -- or should make it -- disappear from today's headlines. It's Donald Trump's degradation we should stay focused on. Sure, Bill Clinton's past is in the mix with the rest of the asshole dicks when it comes to women, but his bill has long since been paid. Trump's has not yet been totaled.

As for porn, turning over that rock is a side story to the #MeToo movement. This is a woman's moment. Men need to buck up and stand aside. We've could use a good dose of shaming. It that Catholic enough for you, Ross?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Donald Trump's #MeNeither Moment

What makes Donald Trump tick is not hard to figure: Put "self-" in front of any number of words, and you've got it. Self-promotion, self-protection, self-involved, self-centered. Yeah, and whether you prefer evil in the stupid-or-evil paradigm, you have to admit that with Trump self-deception is in the mix. He really appears, at some point, to believe his own bullshit.

We knew it would come to this. What comes after "I didn't do it" -- in his world -- is #MeNeither. It's in his DNA to deny. Just as lying is the centerpiece of his stagecraft, denial is the centerpiece of his character.

Now, with people in his inner circle getting busted for domestic abuse of their women, Trump goes the equivalent of nuclear. It was one thing to deny his own culpability -- we'd almost expect that -- and it's another to declare, as with Roy Moore, Bill O'Reilly, and Roger Ailles, that "they say they're innocent, so you have to look at that." And it's still another thing to say about staffers, "It's bad for them, I feel sorry for them, careers could be ruined, they say they're innocent, what happened to due process?"

All the while, there's been plenty of due process, but that's beside the point. As with Shaggy's famous "It Wasn't Me" song, declarations of innocence don't have to make sense. With Trump, "I didn't do it, everyone is lying" is declarative enough. He said it, so it must be so.

He has his movement at last. The club is now big enough. It's time for #MeNeither. How fitting. And how disgusting.

Oh please. The truth is you don't give a shit about the lives of women. Your disdain for them has been coming out of your mouth for decades. Now you've got the bully pulpit, and, man, do you channel the bully. And what does your chief of staff say? #MeNeither.

Trump, you may never get your comeuppance, but we can hope that #MeToo wins out over #MeNeither and you and the GOP are run out of office. Women vote, and the word is they're pissed.


While the World Stands Together, America (Literally) Sits on Its Ass

Vice President Mike Pence went to South Korea to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. He got into a bitch fight with a cool and collected gay U.S. skater and sat through the entrance of a united Korean team while all other leaders in the VIP box stood and applauded. Classy.

Leading from behind. No, leading on your behind.

Slate had it right. Mike Pence is best described as a jerk:
Name: Mike Pence
Home country: United States of America
Known for: Being Donald Trump’s vice president, leading the U.S. delegation to Pyeongchang, staging walkouts of sporting events, homophobia.
Why he might be a jerk: He’s Mike Pence. Case closed!
Slate adds more to be sure. Also, while we're at it, has there ever been a vice president so characterized -- aside from being a jerk -- as not knowing anything about anything? Just wondering.

Friday, February 9, 2018

As the White House Defends a Wife Abuser, Hope Hicks Gets Off Easy

Hope Hicks, Trump's Batgirl, has been dating now-former Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Porter's a serial wife abuser, but Hicks stands by her man.

John Kelly, who thinks the world should "honor women," called Rob Porter “a man of true integrity and honor," saying "I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

A day later he was reportedly "shocked" to learn what he'd known for months. Things slow to kick in, John?

Of course, he fits right in at a Trump White House, and we've been aware of what a horse's ass the former Marine Corps general actually is. But what explains Hope Hicks' defending Porter, other than it appears she's been shagging him? Yeah, probably that.

The Daily Beast ain't letting her get away with it.
What the hell is wrong with the White House? What the hell is wrong with John Kelly? And last but certainly not least: Why the hell is Hope Hicks getting off easy

This is not the first time Hicks has carried water for a man accused of hurting women. From her boss, the president, accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women, to rumored former boyfriend-turned-framee Lewandowski—caught on video grabbing then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields—to Porter, Hicks has kept her head down and professionally defended the alleged abuse of men for much of her post-collegiate 20s.


Apart from being Porter’s girlfriend, Hicks is the White House communications director. And the White House’s handling of the resignation of Porter should bring all of Hicks’ publicly ascribed qualities into question. No matter how dedicated and efficient the White House communications director is, the White House’s wagon-circling around Porter paints Hicks as unprofessional, unethical, and unfit.

To paraphrase a clich√©, there’s a special place in hell for women who choose to use what limited power they have to protect men who hurt women. And Hicks has devoted much of her professional life to doing just that. 
Amen. Didn't know that Corey Lewandowski thing, boy, can she pick 'em or what? Turns out now the White House is trying to shift blame to Lewandowski. Great crew over there.

I've been saying for a while that Donald Trump is the great destroyer of reputations. Hang with him long enough, and you've soiled yourself for sure. Add Kelly and Hicks to the lot.

Update. When Trump turns on you, look out. Hey, Lewandowski, thought he was a friend?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Pathological Liar Can't Help Himself. He Lies. But That's Not What Trump's Lawyers Are Worried About.

Donald Trump under oath is a shitstorm of worry for his lawyers. That he might lie? That he might tell the truth? That he might have forgotten the difference? All of the above.

The truth? What the fuck is that? But, hey, no collusion, no obstruction!

There's more than enough for Trump and his lawyers to worry about, among them the stuff we know, the stuff we suspect, and the stuff we don't know but, face it, must be out there. Trump has been wheeling and dealing -- and pretty ugly doing it -- for so long that bodies are buried all over the place, hopefully only metaphorically speaking.

I don't need to get into lists. We all know what a shitshow he's made of his campaign and presidency, so yada yada yada.

Greg Sargent -- recently my go-to guy for insight in DC -- has been following things closely, and he has a theory:
Buried in this [Times'  theory that his lawyers fear he's a pathological liar who cannot be trusted to refrain from telling falsehoods to investigators] is a hint at an important concession. It is likely Trump’s lawyers don’t simply fear Trump might lie to investigators because he helplessly cannot refrain from doing so even about trivial matters, but also that he might feel he actually has reasons grounded in self-preservation to lie to them — because he has something important to cover up.
You don't have to be a pathological liar to calculate that a truthful answer will get you in hot water or that a lie at the wrong time and place might burn your bacon. But would you want Trump to be in the hot seat and try to make the right call? To make matters worse, how do you decide what the right call is when you maybe don't know what Mueller knows? Fact is you can't because you don't.

I wouldn't want to testify either. Hell no.

But I suspect Trump has or soon will have little choice. He can say no thanks to an interview, he can negotiate favorable conditions -- why would Mueller do that? -- and he can bob and weave his way to the Supreme Court when he refuses to honor a subpoena to the grand jury. Short of another Saturday Night Massacre, he's gonna be in the hot seat eventually.

Here's the deal, though. In a interview, he can have lawyers present. Before a grand jury, he can't. Go for the interview, for pete's sake! Huh? Huh? Okay, lawyers are waiting in the hall outside the grand jury for witnesses to confer with, but Trump getting up after each question? Can't be a winning way to go about it.

Trump has stuff to cover up, plenty of stuff. (Read Sargent's article.) Mueller has enough lines of questioning to keep Trump on the stand for a week, or more. I'd go for the interview, but here I feel Trump has no choice: He's got to drag this out to the bitter end, hoping something will break his way. I doubt that will happen if only because the more this drags out, the worse it gets. Bannon will testify. What has Michael Flynn said? Papadopoulos? Rick Gates looks like he's going to roll. Can Manafort be far behind? What does Trump do when Don Jr. is brought up on lying to the feds? If Kurshner is indicted?

My gut tells me Trump cracks and goes after Mueller. His calculation will be that his base, the GOP, and Fox News will help him survive. He might make it to 2020, but beyond that he's toast. We as a nation might be able to survive that, but what if Trump decides "Hey, play the North Korea card. What choice do I have?"

That's another terrifying story.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Obvious at Last: Trump's Fantasy World Is a Strategy.

Stupid or evil is one metric. Stupid or mentally defective is another, one often applied to Donald Trump. We need a new one if Trump turns out to have a well-crafted (if evil) strategy at work.

No, he's not crafty -- he's failed too many times -- but he is determined.

It's easier on the brain to dismiss Donald Trump as addled. For one reason, it explains how nonsensical he is. Also, it's vaguely reassuring, for how much trouble can he cause if he's hopelessly incompetent? Unfortunately, we already know the answer: quite a lot.

It's another to think that his lies and near-constant stream of misinformation has a strategy to it. He actually considers his next move? He's actually consistent because he reasons his actions and statements out before he makes them? Yes, yes he does. Yikes!

I believe he has a thought-out strategy, though I can't say it's well thought-out. But if you look at all the comments he's made that show up in his books (that he doesn't write), he believes that truth is not important, but something else is.

When trying to understand the shape of his actions and words -- especially his words -- it's helpful to refer back to his notion of "truthful hyperbole." He claimed early in his career that crafting the appearance of something and actually being something were virtually the same. He liked to tell the story that he ordered his construction crew to dig dirt on one side of a building site, move it to the other and then move it back. It didn't matter if anything constructive was happening. What matters were appearances.

Of course, there's nothing truthful about this hyperbole, but Trump has never considered that as a minus. If he could control the perception, it was a plus. Reality was another story altogether.

I'm sure that's the basis of his failures as well as his successes. It's possible to build some real thing on bullshit, but with such a foundation, falling down was slightly more likely than remaining upright. The thing about Trump is he liked those odds. Throw in some manipulated tax law, some improperly supported debt, even some money laundering or playing footsie with the Russian plutocracy, and you've got a positive cash flow. Along with a ginormous inheritance from Pop and a full-out bellicose and bullying nature, Trump had what he needed to survive his own worst impulses.

But that was business, not governance. It doesn't work so well with governance because bamboozlement is not policy. So to maintain the appearance of wild success, Trump purposefully engaging in alt-reality, with a handy assist from the right wing media and the GOP proper, who both thrive on Trump's Bullshit Mountain, as Jon Stewart once famously called the Republican world built on the most preposterous set of zombie lies.

Thus is Trump's endless stream of lies and misinformation a strategy based on keeping his base happy and his enemies off-kilter. It's hard to tackle and overcome a shape shifter, and that's the point: Catch-me-if-you-can is an effective strategy until it isn't, like when you get caught.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Nunes' Memo Is a Dud, a Nothing-Burger. So How Will It Serve Trump?

It took a while for it to hit me. If the memo is a collection of omissions, distortions, and half-baked assertions, why even do it? Because it's an act of evil genius.

If at first you don't succeed, lie lie again.

Devin Nunes is a knucklehead back-bencher from Fresno who fumbled his first foray into partisan hackery. Remember his unmasking of Susan Rice's unmasking that popped and fizzled last year? How, then, does he produce this diabolical memo that has the chattering classes with gums ablazing?

As with his first scheme, he likely didn't originate it or produce it. The Susan Rice unmasking was the work of two aides in the National Security Agency who have since been dispatched by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. That little charade flopped when it came out that there is nothing improper or unusual about such unmaskings, and in fact what was revealed was even more damaging to the Trump crew. The stunt forced Nunes to recuse himself from his committee's investigation, a recusal he nows handily forgets.

Now comes the "Nunes" memo. But is it even his work? The congressman went on Fox News and said that he hadn't even read the FISA warrants that is the underlying centerpiece of the memo, and word is his staff played an important role in drafting it. Also, when minority member Rep. Mike Quigley asked him if the White House had a role in its creation, Nunes refused to answer, literally. Now it appears Nunes may have asked Trey Gowdy (of Benghazi fame) to write the memo.

Presumably the memo had a purpose. Those in Congress who have looked at it for a while and those in the press who have looked at it since its public release yesterday have come to conclusions that fall along partisan lines. The left finds the memo preposterously empty of fact and purposefully misleading, and the right finds it "disturbing," "alarming," "disgraceful."

To my point: The vast majority of those in the press, intelligence experts, even people in today's DOJ and FBI, all agree that it's built on misinformation and magical thinking. It's a dud that doesn't even ring remotely true. So how can it work for the GOP and, more importantly, Donald Trump?

This answer is diabolically simple: Trump's base -- now also known as the Republican base -- accept it at face value. If you don't reject it as untrue, if you simply say, "Oh my God, look what they found out about the Russian investigation! Hillary did it!", then the memo becomes a genuine weapon Trump can wield against Rod Rosenstein or anyone building a case against him or his close friends and family.

If Trump's base accepts the truthiness of the memo uncritically, if Trump's allies on Fox News act as if the memo is gospel, and if his hook-line-and-sinker GOP pols wave the document à la Joe McCarthy, then it doesn't matter if it's a dud, a nothing-burger, a total fiction. It's a prop, for heaven's sake, a cudgel to pull out now or at the final ditch.

Trump has wielded one falsehood after another after another with, dismally, no small effect. It matters not that there's little to no truth in the Nunes memo. That was never the point.

This was the point:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Trump Lied Throughout His SOTU Speech. Now He Lies about Viewer Numbers. Typical.

What's with this obsession with the biggest, the best, the most? Any guesses? And when Trump is none of the above, he's forced to turn to lies, which has led to a lifetime of living in a bubble.

The most, the best, the biggest...drum roll...liar. Yes, the real Donald Trump.

He can't help himself:

Here Trump pulls a bit of a switcheroo by claiming the "highest number in history." Yes, Fox's number was highest in cable-news history, but Trump's numbers were well below Obama's at 48 million. Variety offers up the stats:
In total, President Trump’s address drew 45.6 million viewers across broadcast and cable, according to the final Nielsen tally. That number does not include those who live-streamed the speech.
Obama’s first State of the Union in 2010 drew 48 million viewers across broadcast and cable, while his first address before a joint session of Congress in February 2009 drew 52.4 million viewers.
Trump's first joint-session speech last year was some 12 million shy of Obama's, so Trump came up short there, too. Sad!

Note. Yeah, this kind of exercise is increasingly boring, but chronicling the on-going deception is necessary to deflect Trump's wretched narcissism toward accountability. (Snooze.)

Update. Trump's numbers were below George W. and Clinton, as well. Super Sad!